One way RIEEA supports our members is with professional development (PD) scholarships to support lifelong learning. Recently, we awarded scholarships to two employees of Audubon Society of Rhode Island to attend the Northeast Natural History Conference where they both completed trainings in wildlife tracking. Read on to learn more about their adventures and what they learned in their trainings!
From Marina Flannery:
In April, I participated in Tracker Certification, CyberTracker North America through the Northeast Natural History Conference in Burlington, Vermont. The Track and Sign Workshop and Certification is a program designed to help develop and refine wildlife tracking. We were led by two Professional Trackers, Nate Harvey, Level V, Tracker and Instructor, and Sophie Mazowita, Level III, Tracker and Instructor. Trackers are certified in biomes and currently, certificates are only available in North America, Southern Africa and Europe.
We explored Century Forest in Burlington, VT and two sections of shoreline on the Winooski River in Colchester, VT. The focus of each area included:
- Clear and obscure print identification
- Sign interpretation, wildlife behavior and natural history
- Wildlife physiology and design
- Animal movement and track pattern interpretation
- Aging tracks and signs
- The ecology and natural history of the local landscape
- Wildlife ecology, interactions and roles within and ecosystem
The format for the CyberTracker evaluation system is internationally applied, and professional-level certification process is used to promote wildlife tracking and ecological knowledge. The field training is done through test form. The instructors seek out local areas, bring the participants to the area, and then the participants evaluate the tracks and signs. The participants are not allowed to speak during the evaluation time with each other, nor are books, charts or measuring tools allowed. Measurements can be done with hands, arm, foot etc. Participants may bring a notebook and pencils for note taking. After each section is completed answers are submitted to an answer taker. Evaluations and scores were presented at the end of the 8-hour field study.
It was a challenging day but highly motivating for me to continue studying Wildlife Tracking and Signs. I received a Level I Track and Sign Certificate for the Northeast being one of three participants who passed this workshop. The new skills learned at the professional level will be applied in my programs with Audubon Society of RI.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to cultivate my tracking and sign skills. I appreciate the scholarship support that I received from RIEEA.
From Tracey Hall:
This was a Level 1 certification with Track and Sign experts through the organization Cyber-Tracking Conservation. We gained a Level 1 certification- there are advanced levels that come after that. I most definitely will be continuing. I am happy to say out of 16 people both Marina and I were two of only 3 people to be certified, and I had the second highest score. (Many of our fellow trackers were Experts in different areas of science, too!)
It is understatement to say how valuable this workshop was to my knowledge base as a Naturalist, Environmental Educator, and Interpreter. Also- just my ability to appreciate how valuable this whole other “language” is. It increased my awareness and understanding of the wildlife around me. It is the language of reading the stories that wildlife tells, only if we are willing to be more observant and aware. I thought I knew a lot from years of teaching tracks and signs, but there is so much more to learn. It was challenging enough on this Level 1 too, but still very fun, and exciting.
I’ve gained so much from attending this workshop. I will certainly be using these skills directly in the programs I do with youth, family and adults through my work at Audubon. I hope to inspire, and ignite the passion of understanding of the natural world and our local wildlife more. My hope is to help “up and coming” naturalists to be more observant, and interpret the natural world better. I will use the knowledge gained from the workshop in my work with high School and college level students more at ASRI. Specifically, I have a workshop I will be leading on this topic, as a raffle item for our Party for the Peregrines Fundraiser!
Track and Sign Interpretation is both an art and a science. Understanding “the who has been here, and what were they doing,” will help us better understand the health of our local ecosystems, and our Audubon Wildlife Refuges better, in the midst of forest fragmentation, pollution, and climate change.
Thank you so much Jeanine and members of the RIEEA board for granting me this scholarship to attend!
Attending a conference or workshop related to environmental education and want to apply for a scholarship? Learn more here!